When A foodjunky.com Culture Can Be A Healthy One: Part II of Our Conversation with Travis Johnson,
In Part I of our Leading With Courage℠ conversation with foodjunky.com Co-Founder and CEO Travis Johnson shared how his concierge service makes ordering food from local restaurants easy for individuals, groups, and catering. He also opened up about the de-railers to effective leadership that he tripped over in his first few years in business. From those experiences, he’s become someone who is never afraid to ask the customer, “What do you think?”
We continue the conversation with Travis by talking about two very different management styles and how the one he’s chosen is fueling his culture in a healthy way.
Leading With Courage℠ Academy:
Travis, as we talk about various approaches to doing business, what’s the mindset that you typically apply to the issues you face each day?
Travis Johnson: What I look for is different than a lot of people look for, and, maybe this is a character flaw of mine, but I'm very mono-chronic.
There is a mono-chronic mindset and a poly-chronic mindset. Mono-chronic is very American-centric, poly-chronic is very European-centric or Island-centric.
Poly-chronic means I'm not focused on a single project, not focused on deadlines, not focused on time whatsoever. Mono-chronic, on the other hand, is very focused on the task at hand, scheduling and time.
I feel that time is extremely important, considering what we're doing here at foodjunky.com is saving people time. I want our team to be focused on getting tasks done and setting schedules that are appropriate that we can get finished. Being mono-chronic means you are also very good at focusing on the challenge and getting rid of all the noise from anything else. When you get that challenge done, you go on to the next.
What about a poly-chronic manager?
Poly-chronic means that you listen to all the noise around you as you’re trying to get multiple things done. I find that when you don't prioritize, you don't triage and you don't handle things individually one at a time. So 1) the tasks that you're doing aren't completed in a timely manner, 2) they aren't completed well and 3) sometimes aren’t completed at all.
So, is it fair to say you tend to prefer the mono-chronic way of focusing on an issue rather having too many balls up in the air at once?
Every one of us has a lot of balls up in the air at once. It’s how you handle that that’s the important thing.
If you're poly-chronic, you're trying to catch all the balls. If you're mono-chronic, what you're doing is saying I'm going to catch this ball right now, handle it, and then go pick up the next ball to handle that. In my case, I'm not trying to keep them all up in the air at the same time.
So you're tolerant when some balls drop as long as the expectations are set that you're catching this one.
Is that the key to it – setting expectations?
Definitely. It's all about living up to your promises and setting up your expectations to say, "I'm going to get this done right now." You can triage the rest of them by saying, “I'll get that one done tomorrow and the next one may get done next month. The next one may get done in February." Then you get your tasks done and you're getting things produced.
I think it's become our culture based on the way I handle things because if I had all of my tasks that I have to get done set in my task calendar set for today, I wouldn't be able to see my calendar. All I'd see are pages of tasks, which becomes overwhelming and daunting. So you triage that and set for today what you can get done today.
So, it's about pacing, setting expectations and meeting commitments. I assume these are important in your hiring.
Absolutely. Beyond being mono-chronic or poly-chronic, it's about owning your own mistakes. I had to do that as a team leader as well. I make mistakes and I think a lot of CEOs tend to try to shield their mistakes from their employees. By the same token, they don't want the employees to be shielding their mistakes from them. So how can you expect them not to shield if you are shielding your own mistakes?
That’s why I make it a very big point to say, "Yeah, I think you're right and I think I was wrong on this," or, "I think I really messed up, we need to fix this. I need your help."
It keeps coming back, as I listen to you, to the under-promise, over-deliver mantra, whether it's employees, services, etc.
It does. It’s funny, there's a dry cleaner on the way to my office where you drop off your clothes like any other dry cleaner – only this one doesn't have hours. He puts a sign out…when he's there. Now, I understand that there are not that many people in Detroit right now (even though there’s a lot of opportunity there), but you can't just decide that your hours are going to be random hours. If you’re going to run a business like that, how can anyone rely upon their dry cleaning, right? So, I have to call him every single time to ask, "Hey, are you going to be at work tomorrow?"
It reminds me of my team in the beginning when some wanted to change our hours because we didn’t get a lot of orders during a certain block of time. I said, "That may be true, but we've got to have some set hours. We can't just have it be the hours that we want and we do get some orders in those slow periods too.”
The bottom line? You've got to have consistency. Your customer base must know that they can, well…
…be able to count on you?
What helps build a lean, mean operating machine as you scale your business? Ironically, it’s about making your job obsolete – and that’s a very good thing for everyone as Travis explains in the final post of our 3-part conversation. He also speaks to the power of testing your business model or new product or service before you’ve created it, effectively whetting appetites for what’s to come.
Speaking of which, when you think about how your business scales from here or the “next era” of your company, what does that look like? Who’s in the C-suite and department manager chairs years from now? Do you wrestle with that idea or is it something you’ve just been ignoring? Well, it’s not going to go away. Leaders With Courage face that challenge head on today. Be one of them by talking to us about a Leading With Courage℠ Academy workshop. In two days or less, you can further identify the emerging leaders in your organization and develop strategies to help them grow in bigger roles to come.